Sunday, March 9, 2008

52 52 52 Week #3: Texas

In which I examine crappy local sports journalism on a state-by-state basis, progressing through the states in terms of an alphabetical ordering of the heights of their tallest points. Because I can.

I've been gone too long, my friends. I must admit I blogged myself out with the successive Friday and Favre Frenzies. All I can say is, if Peter Forsberg decides to pull any shit in the next few days...well, alliteration or no, someone else can cover it. Sorry dudes, but I just can't keep that sort of pace up indefinitely. But I'm pretty sure I have the energy for a weekly post about shitty local journalism. And since this week is Texas and I do feel a bit guilty for not posting recently, I'll make it extra big. I've already done pictures - I think it's time to tackle videos. But, without further ado...

The highest point in Texas is the first even remotely manly size I've heard so far, with Guadalupe Peak soaring to 8,749 feet. That's a full ten times higher than Rhode Island's Jehimoth Hill, but admittedly it doesn't have anything anywhere near as interesting as Jehimoth's bizarre tale of trespassing through driveways and being more inaccessible than Mount McKinley. Oh well, here's what I've got on the factoid front...

1. At the summit there's a commemorative marker erected in 1958 to remember the 100th anniversary of the Butterfield Overland Mail, which was a stagecoach route that passed south of the mountain. The marker is apparently a stainless steel pyramid. For some reason, it was none other than American Airlines who put the thing up. Weird. Although the American Airlines logo is prominently displayed on the pyramid, so I guess it isn't that weird.

2. It's actually a three-sided pyramid, and apparently American Airlines was renting out commemorative space to take better advantage of that lucrative "markers at the top of Texas's highest point" market. One of the two sides memorializes the Pony Express. Something you might not know about the Pony Express: they only operated for all of sixteen months, from April 1860 to October 1861.

3. The other side has a compass on it to mark Boy Scouts of America. This seems as good a time as any to say "Fuck the Boy Scouts." Penn & Teller told me as much, and both Djmmm and I listen to those guys unquestioningly. (That's the point of their show, right?)

Eh, Guadalupe Peak is no Jehimoth Hill. Ah well, this series is only tangentially meant to educate you guys about the fascinating topic that is the highpoints of these fifty states. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

As far as newspapers in Texas go, I'm pretty spoiled for choice, what with them having at least three major cities and all. All three have turned out their share of journalists who range from a little shaky to completely shitty; Dallas has Tim Cowlishaw, Houston has Richard Justice, San Antonio has...well, Dallas has Skip Bayless. Or at least they had him. I'm pretty sure Skip has been completely absorbed into the gestalt ESPN entity. You know those kids who got named Espn by their dumbass parents? Yeah, those are all just incubators for the Great Bristol Ones. Gotta read your Lovecraft if you're gonna take on the WWL, people!

In any event, my newspaper of choice is a little smaller than the Dallas or Houston outfits, in keeping with my mission to make fun of local journalism. Ladies and gentlemen (eh, who am I kidding...I know only the ladies read a blog this sexy), please meet The Austin American-Statesman, which apparently is a pretty awesome journal of record, all things considered. It's often called liberal with a pro-business bias, which I think sounds kinda cool, but much better than any random political leaning is that they are said to give fair coverage to Green and Libertarian Party activies, which in these days of two-party monopoly (duopoly?) is refreshing as all hell. (But what about the Monster Raving Loony Party!?). Also, they're big on covering the alternative music scene, which you'd figure from the newspaper for the city that gave us Slacker.

Oh, and they host reader blogs, which probably makes them the good guys. Hell, the two guys I'm looking at this week, Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden, aren't really all that bad; they're pretty loveable, in a weird, King of the Hill sort of way. Which is to say they're dumb, but they're so earnest and mild-mannered about it that you can't really hold it against them. You might wonder why I'm dealing with two people this week instead of one. All will become clear, my friends. All will become clear...

First up, Cedric Golden. This is about a week old, so part of my criticism is a little unfair, but do tell, Cedric...which two Texas teams do you want to see in the NBA playoffs?

Give us Dallas and San Antonio in a seven-game NBA playoff series.

Really? You want to see a weirdly-constructed, most likely fatally flawed team play a kinda boring (TV ratings prove that fact as objectively true) team that, if Bill Simmons is correct, flops more than Dick Fosbury in 1968? And Dick Fosbury did A LOT of flopping in 1968. Also Bill Simmons is never wrong.

Give us two teams with little regard for each other, playing as if the NBA title were on the line.

Wait...they have little regard for each other? Holy shit, better keep these two away from one another!! I mean, when you put two teams with only miniscule quantities of regard for each other take to the same floor...well, you know what, shit just gets real.

Seriously, I'm not the biggest NBA fan around, but when I think juicy rivalries, I think Suns-Lakers (especially if Shaq can say something weird to set Kobe off). Not really Spurs-Mavs.

Give us two teams who have split their past 20 matchups 11-9 in favor of Dallas, with five of the past six decided by five or fewer points.

Dude, that seems like a really unfair criterion. I mean, if you're asking me to choose two teams with their past 20 matchups being in favor of Dallas...well, doesn't that mean I have to choose Dallas? And yeah, I know that's not what he's saying, but I hate hidden variables! Hate 'em hate 'em hate 'em!

Rivalries drive sports, and fans demand that the best rivals meet at the most crucial times. To that end, here are a few more gift requests involving Texas' best.

Yeah...thing is, of course, is that I think Houston is Texas's best, what with the sick winning streak and all. Sure, this was written a week ago when it still looked questionable whether the Yao injury had totally destroyed the Rockets...but hey, don't go dismissing T-Mac. That's what the entire country of Canada did...and someday I imagine it's possible they'll regret that in some capacity. Maybe he can become commissioner of the CFL and run it into the ground or something. He did always strike me as Isaiah-eque.

OK, we hear Kobe Bryant just went an entire month without demanding a trade, and it's because Memphis gift-wrapped power forward Pau Gasol in a deal that made Seward's $7.2 million purchase of Alaska seem way overpriced.

Hey, dude...fuck you. Don't ever question William Seward's purchase of Alaska. You know who he purchased it from? That's right, the Ruskies. We were this close from a communist outpost on the American continent. And as an American, I'm against that. Also, Balto wouldn't have been nearly as uplifting if that wolf-dog had been running under a red flag. God, I hate those commie bastards.

Where was I? Oh yes...

Kobe's quiet now, because L.A. has the best record in the West at 41-18. Plus, you know the NBA marketing mavens would love to see the large-market Lakers make it to the finals with Bryant, the NBA's top player, and Phil Jackson, the league's most decorated coach.

They're also an exciting team with a great top four in Bryant, Bynum, Gasol, and Lamar Odom. Seriously, I'm only a casual NBA fan these days, but the LA Lakers is a team that legitimately excites me. Dallas just confuses me, while San Antonio bores me. I know this makes me not a proper fan and all, but seriously - they've won roughly four (depending on your feelings regarding the 1999 lockout season) titles in the last decade; San Antonio has done just fine for itself. Admittedly, so has LA. Still, you say it yourself Cedric, Kobe is the NBA's top player. Why wouldn't you want to see him go far into the playoffs? Isn't he like officially forgiven by now?

Eh, I know that these are sorta shaky distinctions. It's all subjective, really, and I guess you can't fault the man for playing to his base, which is Texas. Sure, I think he's giving Houston some pretty seriously short shrift, but honestly? It's not really that bad. Although lines like these rankle me a little:

OK, commissioner Stern, we could live with Kobe in the finals if we had to, just as long as the two Texas rivals get to square off sometime during the playoffs. And if L.A. knocks off Dallas or San Antonio en route to the title series, then it earned the right.

I hate it when people address David Stern in their articles, if only because then it treads dangerously towards some stupid "the league doesn't want it to happen but it should happen for the purity of the game" bullshit. Also, I like that Kobe must play one of the Texas teams to legitimately make it to the Finals. As though playing three 50 wins teams like, I don't know, New Orleans, Phoenix, and Utah wouldn't be a real achievement. I'm pretty sure LA would have "earned the right" if they did that.

I've got a lot to get through, so I'll run through the rest of this quickly...

Dirk Nowitzki won the 2007 regular-season most valuable player award, but he would trade that honor in a St. Croix second for one of Tim Duncan's four championships.

St. Croix travels at roughly 10,000 miles per hour. So relativistically, their seconds are somewhat longer. That's a little-known fact.

While some call him Irk (no D)

Who calls him that? Those people are assholes.

we must respect that he added a physical element to his offensive game — fewer three-pointers and more drives to the bucket — while also giving an honest effort at the defensive end.

Yes, I'll respect him for "an honest effort" - this is kindergarten four-square, right? Because other than that, I can't really see myself respecting somebody for "an honest effort." And I can see myself doing a lot of things.

His numbers are good this season (23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds), but the only number that really matters is wins

Which he only deserves credit for if his numbers are good, because that means he's actually contributing to said wins. So those first numbers matter inasmuch as they determine just how many wins Dallas is likely to rack up.

and Nowitzki's shoulders are burdened with the weight of expectations, a heavy load for a man who did not play up to his MVP billing in the embarrassing loss to eighth-seeded Golden State last postseason.

Man, that really was a colossal choke job. Remind me why we absolutely must have Dallas as one of the key players in the postseason?

Not so for Duncan, who is steadier than a surgeon's hand

You mean he does a lot of meth? Because dude, that's how surgeons do it. At least, that's what I gleaned from this one episode of M*A*S*H where Winchester was taking meth but he said it was BLAH BLAH BLAH preachy Alan Alda message BLAH BLAH BLAH war is hell BLAH BLAH BLAH no seriously it is. Although the movie M*A*S*H was unquestionably the balls, whatever faults the TV show later developed:

and as dependable as any forward who has played this game. No greater authority than Charles Barkley agrees. After Karl Malone left the set of "Inside the NBA" during All-Star weekend, Barkley gushed, "There goes the third-best power forward of all time."

"Who's second?" asked host Ernie Johnson.

"I am," Barkley announced. "And Tim Duncan's first. No question."

OK, I'm calling bullshit. Wasn't Barkley like a guard or something? I mean a really fat one, but a guard nonetheless? Also, where's Bob Pettit!? YOU FUCKING FORGOT BOB PETTIT!!!

Don't waste your money watching Floyd Mayweather Jr. wrestle a guy four times his size when the real big show is here in Texas.

Um...OK...I won't.

Instead of the Pretty Boy jumping over the top rope, I'll take Terry and Bowen playing musical elbows over 48 minutes.

Musical elbows? Musical elbows!? C'mon Cedric, don't go all Scoop on me and start making random shit up.

There's more, but I think you get the point. This is just a prelude for the main event anyway.

Let's take a quick look at Kirk Bohls's piece. It's actually essentially fine (as is Cedric's, if I'm being honest), but I have one thing I need to draw your attention to. The article is about a bunch of baseball legends meeting to celebrate the game in Texas.

In the midst of sordid accusations and angry headlines and dark Congressional hearings that threaten to spoil a once proud sport, the game's national pastime was rediscovered — if only for 80 minutes. Five distinguished guests who have played the game, managed the game, broadcast the game and directed the game spent a chilly Monday night extolling baseball's virtues in the George Bush Presidential Library on the Texas A&M campus.

Sounds good. Who was there?

Joe Morgan, introduced to the game by a father who played baseball,

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Anyone but him!!!!

And seriously, if you think Joe wasn't up to his old tricks, think a-fucking-gain...

Morgan disputed the history of the first home run ever hit in the Astrodome.

Of course he did.

Sure, Mantle was credited with hitting the first one in the first game played indoors, but the Hall of Fame second baseman claimed he had hit one the day before in an Astros exhibition against the Triple-A club.

Damn you Joe. Damn you to hell, where I imagine you can meet up with Mickey Mantle and explain why you're cramping his buzz. Which, from what I've heard, was a pretty substantial buzz, as far as these things go.

"I lit up the scoreboard and the bull and all that stuff," Morgan said. "But who's Joe Morgan? They didn't even know if I was going to stay up the whole year."

Don't tease me with what might have been. Last I checked, they don't pay failed prospects big bucks to talk idiotically about baseball. Nope, they pay failed prospects big bucks to destroy baseball and write books about it.

Now, here comes the fun part. For whatever reason, the good folks at The Austin American-Statesman thought it would be good to sit Cedric and Kirk in front of a gray wall and have them talk sports topics for a minute. They call it the Longhorn Minute, and it's basically the ultra-low-rent, local version of Pardon the Interruption, which as you can imagine makes me just unspeakably happy.

I wish I could embed it for your viewing pleasure, but after days of trying, I have to say those crafty webmasters at the Austin American-Statesman have outmaneuvered me. Wouldn't be the first time. Anyway, here's the link; I'll provide a transcript in case when you're reading this ten years from now they've taken it down. Because I know that's going to be all the rage in 2018.

The topic is Roger Clemens. Kirk and Cedric, the floor is yours.

Kirk: Cedric, Congress has said that they may pursue perjury charges against, uh, Roger Clemens after his testimony before that, uh, what's it, Oversight and Reform committee...

Technically Oversight and Government Reform, but it's not as though I would have done any better.

Cedric: Mm hmm.

Good contribution, Cedric. Way to maximize your minute. LONG...HORN!!!

Kirk: Do you think we'll ever see Roger Clemens behind bars?

For the record, a show where Roger Clemens is a bartender and wacky hijinks ensue would be kinda awesome. Mostly shitty as all fuck, but also kinda awesome. Much like Highlander:

Look, if I can't embed the actual video, I'm going to embed something. Also, you're welcome.

Cedric: No way, I just, I don't see Roger Clemens going to jail...

That's incisive legal analysis if ever I heard it. I'm sure our resident law student Djmmm would second the soundness of that opinion. Who can forget Pierce Butler's brilliant summation of the landmark 1924 Supreme Court case United States v. Ninety-Five Barrels Alleged Apple Cider Vinegar, where he wrote, "I just don't see that apple cider vinegar is labeled correctly when that vinegar is made from dried apples." Also, what the fuck was the Supreme Court doing in the 1920s? Fucking Taft, man. Worst Chief Justice ever. Yes, even worse than Morrison Waite.

Kirk: Not enough evidence?

Yes Kirk, I bet that's exactly Cedric's reason why Clemens probably won't go to jail. Man, I just love Texan naivete.

Cedric: Uh, I don't know, I just don't see him going to jail. I see him maybe getting sanctioned or, or paying some huge fine but, um, Roger Clemens in jail? I don't see it.

I was actually kinda shocked to discover you apparently can be fined for perjury. I really figured that was bullshit reasoning, but it seems to check out. Although if Djmmm can correct this, I'd certainly like to call Cedric an idiot.

Kirk: Well, I mean, you know, different cases obviously, but we've seen other African-American athletes,

Roger Clemens is African-American?

Michael Vick, Marion Jones, get prison sentences.

Look, I think Michael Vick got excoriated way more than he necessarily deserved because, you know, puppies are cute and he electrocuted them. Sure, that's heinous as all shit, but he sort of became a dumping ground for a lot of other animosity. But dude, torturing puppies when all your friends have decided to take deals and become witnesses against you is slightly different from perjuring yourself in front of Congress, even when all the evidence is definitely going against you. I'm not saying one is more serious than the other, just that "different cases" doesn't really begin to describe how different they are.

Although Marion Jones, yes, that's a good example. Can't really argue that one.

Cedric: Mm hmm. OK over there?

Kirk: Different cases obviously... different set of circumstances.

Again, as far as Vick goes, "different" is just a teeny weeny bit of an understatement. Just a tad.

Cedric: Yes, yes.

Cedric, I know Kirk is manly in the way only a man who kills his own food can be and has a great sexy Southern drawl and just rocks a button-down shirt like all get out...but seriously, dude, restrain yourself. This is a kid's blog.

(NOTE: If you are a kid, you should probably leave this blog right now. Or at least not tell your parents where you learned all these...well, I'm going to go Star Trek IV here and call them "colorful metaphors.")

Kirk: Do you see any racial overtones in this possibility?

This is an unbelievably loaded question. I'm shocked Stephen A. didn't sense this question through the ether and call in with his thoughts. But Cedric Golden is not Stephen A. Smith. Hell, Cedric Golden might actually be the most sensible sportswriter on this issue I've ever heard. Let's go...

Cedric: I see some racial overtones if Barry Bonds ends up going to jail because both these guys came in around the same time, they both allegedly used performance-enhancers around or after 1998 and there's, uh, a lot of, um, uh, scrutiny that goes along with both.

That seems fair. Speaking of fair, I'm probably being a total dick by putting in all their verbal fillers like that, but I want you to really feel like you're there. And by "there", I mean "watching a tiny video on your computer screen."

I think they're the same type of athlete

I think you'll actually find one's a pitcher...AND THE OTHER'S A BELLY-ITCHER!!! Chortle, chortle, ha ha ha!!! Man...I gotta write jokes like I'm twelve more often.

and they had the similar type of performances at when the steroid era started. So, uh, if Roger Clemens doesn't go to jail and Barry Bonds does, that's gonna open up a can of worms and the race card will be played.

Cedric, I hate to break this to you because you're clearly the most sensible sportswriter in America - seriously, I'm not fucking joking - and you just expect everyone to be as calm and rational about this as you, but the race card has been played. And that was just from quickly checking one blog and keeping it pretty much to just Jemele Hill. I didn't even go looking for Stephen A.'s, Whitlock's, Scoop's, or Wilbon's thoughts on this.

Kirk: Maybe if he does get convicted maybe, uh, President Barack Obama appeals him and heals the nation's wounds. I don't know, it would be interesting to see.

First of all, don't get my hopes up like that Kirk. Second of all, "appeals him"? I know "appeal" and "pardon" look really similar, in that they both have a "p" and an "a" in them ("appeal" has two of each!!), but they're not really the same all. At least it's legalish, I guess. Although how the fuck pardoning Barry Bonds would heal the nation's wounds is anybody's guess.

Also, is Kirk trying to suggest hypothetical President Obama would pardon Barry Bonds because they're both black? Is that how casual racism works in Texas? Maybe he's just clumsily trying to make a joke about Obama being about "hope" and "change" and so forth. In which case...Kirk, I think you should leave the jokes to other people. I mean, dude, the writer's strike is over. It's OK to have people write your gags again.

Cedric: We'll cross that river when we get to it.

At this point Cedric grins insanely, which I really hope means he's intensely debating whether he needs to kick Kirk's ass. Apparently he didn't, as they're back the next week, this time discussing who other than Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are Hall of Fame quarterbacks. As Larry B over at FireJay pointed out, these types of discussions are stupid. This is very true. I'll leave you to savor it yourselves, but here are three final thoughts...

1. Note that Kirk and Cedric are dressed almost exactly the same.
2. The use of random AP photos in The Longhorn Minute is just incredible. Every randomly inserted photo is proof that there's some failed film school student editing that somewhere, cursing that he isn't even editing a minute-long discussion of later Ozu.
3. Apparently Carson Palmer is the closest they can come up with for another HOFer. Even though I think I agree, that pretty much underlines how inane this discussion is. Also, unworthy as he definitely is, I can't help but think Kurt Warner dies a little more inside whenever he hears this discussion, wondering what might have been if only it was his team that taped their opponents' walkthrough before Super Bowl XXXVI.

Yes, that's right, fuck the Patriots. Even in Texas, that's true. Either way, I'm back, people, with a regular posting schedule that I'll try to keep to way better than last week. I just hope Ray Ratto has some shit to say this week. Because that fucker's always gold.


Passive Voice said...

Provoked by the most minimal of perceived slights, the male Canadian frantically bounds into action:

The rampant national insecurities are likely due to being the disfigured love-child of two former world powers, as well as the "nearest little bitch" of the world's current foremost power.

Watch carefully:
[experimenter] "U2"


Passive Voice said...

Furthermore, we don't need some wily Yankee to help us run our own league into financial ruin.

Passive Voice said...

Oh come on, now you're on to Alaska. Don't do this to me.